Former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has stepped aside from his new trade role based in New York after intense scrutiny over the appointment.
Mr Barilaro on Thursday decided to withdraw from the role as the state’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas.
The former deputy premier told Investment NSW his position had become untenable and was a distraction for the government, the ABC reported on Thursday.
CEO of Investment NSW, Amy Brown, said she had been notified Mr Barilaro would pull out of the $500,000 a year role.
“This evening Mr John Barilaro notified me that he is withdrawing from the role of Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Americas, effective immediately,” Ms Brown said in a statement on Thursday.
“I request that his privacy be respected at this time.”
Investment NSW would continue to assist with two inquiries probing the appointment, she said.
“As such it is not appropriate to make any further comment.”
#BREAKING John Barilaro has just withdrawn from the trade envoy role to NYC.
This could not be any murkier.
Dominic Perrottet must come clean about what really led to this appointment.
Transparency and integrity is the very least NSW deserves from their government.
— Chris Minns (@ChrisMinnsMP) June 30, 2022
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns criticised Premier Dominic Perrottet for failing to move against Mr Barilaro.
“It’s telling that the premier didn’t sack John Barilaro, he walked,” Mr Minns said in a statement.
“Mr Barilaro should never have been appointed to this job in the first place.
“Serious concerns remain about how he got the job and the parliamentary inquiry will continue to pursue those.”
Earlier on Thursday Police Minister David Elliott called on the former Nationals leader to withdraw from the position.
“My very, very strong view is that he shouldn’t be going to New York and I’m pretty sure that that’s the view of the majority of people in this state,” Mr Elliott told Sky News.
“I expect him to withdraw and do the honourable thing, because quite clearly when you become the story over an appointment, well, then the appointment might be not in the best interest of the people of NSW.”
Appointment would be ‘politically contentious’
Investment and Trade Minister Stuart Ayres also weighed in on the escalating issue, saying he had concerns after Mr Barilaro texted him about the plum job in December.
“He contacted me via text message … indicating that he was interested in it,” Mr Ayres told reporters on Thursday.
“I informed him that they would be publicly advertised and he, like any other private citizen, will be able to apply.”
He admitted he had always held the view Mr Barilaro’s appointment would be politically contentious, but said he did not have the authority to direct his former colleague to resign.
The government announced two weeks ago Mr Barilaro had been appointed to the role, a job he created while trade minister.
The job came with a $487,000 salary plus a $16,000 allowance, with Mr Barilaro due to start work in the Manhattan office on July 12.
Nearly $1 million has been spent refurbishing part of the Australian consulate in New York for Mr Barilaro to occupy.
Parliamentary inquiry to continue
A parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday heard senior Investment NSW bureaucrat Jenny West was told last year she had the job.
Ms Brown told the inquiry she had to withdraw the verbal offer to Ms West in October. That came after a request was made by Mr Barilaro’s office in September to move the trade commissioner positions from an in-house decision for her department to one requiring cabinet approval.
Days later Mr Barilaro announced his retirement as an MP, officially ending his time in parliament in December.
Mr Barilaro was offered the job in May and signed the contract earlier this month.
The parliamentary inquiry will resume on Wednesday when Ms West will appear as a witness.
Mr Perrottet has also announced a separate review into the recruitment process, which he expects within weeks.
“I will look at the recommendations and any action that needs to be taken I will,” he said on Tuesday.